What is a Graphic Organizer (Download 10 Example Templates!)

As teachers, we are always looking for ways to help our students learn more effectively in the classroom. Reading reams of text can be boring for students, and it often fails to produce the desired results.

By incorporating other forms of media, we can help engage the student and improve the learning process. One way to do this is by implementing graphic organizers.

What is a graphic organizer?

Graphic organizers are effective pedagogical tools that help students express their knowledge visually and form relationships between pieces of information. The visual aid facilitates the learning process in several ways; it can be used as a tool for research, brainstorming, or a tool for simplifying complicated topics and aiding decision-making.

Graphic organizers can be applied to a range of subjects, such as science, languages, history, and math. There are different types of graphic organizers that students can use depending on how students would like to group information.

How can students use graphic organizers?

There are a number of ways students can use graphic organizers.

Before Instruction

Teachers can use graphic organizers to show students how the information is presented and the relationship between ideas. Teachers can draw a mindmap, for example, to elicit ideas from students and activate their prior knowledge.

During Instruction

Graphic organizers can be used during the class. Students take an active role in their learning process by isolating, organizing and categorizing information to produce their graphic organizer. The graphic organizers are adapted to their individual learning style and aid critical-thinking.

After Instruction

Students can construct their own graphic organizers to summarize the text by isolating its key concepts. Students should be able to elaborate on their prior knowledge and connect it with the existing ideas they have learned.

Types of Graphic Organizers for Students

There are many types of graphic organizers that can be implemented. When using a graphic organizer for the first time, you should describe its purpose, model its use, and provide some guided practice on how to use it.

Here are some graphic organizer examples to help you get started.


The T-Chart helps to organize ideas into two columns. Maybe you would use a T-Chart to list the pros and cons, problems and solutions of something, or draw comparisons between two ideas.

Venn Diagrams

This allows students to compare and contrast, how ideas may be alike and different.

KWL Chart

What do we know? What do we want to find out? What did we learn? This graphic organizer can be developed at the beginning of the lesson as a guide and quick preview of the material. Teachers can briefly verbalize the ideas and what will be taught in the lesson.


A storyboard could be used to draw what happens in a chapter, to communicate the plot of an original story. There could also be some space to write a caption, to help organize the illustrations with key facts.

Cause and Effect Web

Cause and effect show us how one thing leads to another. The cause is why something happens. The effect is something that happens as a result of something that happens.

For example, one cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels. The effect is how that air pollution impacts the environment.

This can help students understand why things happen.

Ladder Sequence

The ladder sequence shows you how each step is linked. This provides a visual method of organizing and summarizing information. This is suitable for subject matters with a beginning and an end.

Teachers can faciliate active learning by jumbling up all the steps and students have to put them in order.

Sequence Chart

If there is a multi-step process or sequence of events that need to be organized, consider using a sequence chart. This can be used to organize large amounts of information about a topic.


The Fishbone, also known as the Ishikawa diagram can be used to summarise an entire topic. It can help show how complex topics interrelate. The boxes can be used as titles and the other lines can be used to provide the rest of the details.


A mind map is a visual tool to show the relationships on a topic. The mindmap is often drawn on a single idea that is centered on the page. The branches link various subtopics and concepts together.

Concept Map

Students can process the meaning of new words by using a concept definition map. This helps students learn a new vocabulary word, expression or phrase by linking it to terms and examples they are already familiar with.

Tips for Using Graphic Organizers

  • Model how to use the graphic organizer
  • Teachers generate their own graphic organizer for complex material
  • Avoid complete sentences
  • Offer a variety of organizers
  • Let the students get creative

Model How to Use the Graphic Organizer

Students need to be shown how to use the graphic organizers by teachers. This guided practice will help students get the most from this tool.

Teachers Generate Their Own Graphic Organizer

When students are presented with a pre-made graphic organizer and reading materials, students have learned more deeply in a shorter period of time than those who had to produce their own graphic organizers, according to studies.

Therefore, the teacher could partially fill the graphic organizers and allow the students to fill in the rest for a better learning experience. This will also teach them how to take notes in graphic organizers alone.

Avoid Complete Sentences

Avoid cluttering the graphic organizers with full sentences. Instead, use fragmented sentences and bullet points to get the idea across. This will save time and space on the graphic organizer.

Offer a Variety of Organizers

Make the graphic organizers readily available to students, so the students can get used to using them. Students may start to use the graphic organizers unprompted.

Let Students Get Creative

Allow students to think outside the box and use their graphic organizers as they see fit. This might mean coloring outside of the lines, adding doodles or finding other creative uses for their graphic organizers.

How do graphic organizers benefit English language learners?

Graphic organizers can be used to benefit ELLs’ comprehension by illustrating vocabulary, key terms, ideas, and how they are connected. English language learners can use graphic organizers to sort new vocabulary. They can write the definition of the word, a drawing, its synonyms, examples, etc.

By decoding this key vocabulary before the lesson, students will have an easier time comprehending the text that follows.

How does the graphic organizer enhance students’ skills?

It Improves Comprehension

It improves comprehension as they allow for a deeper understanding on a subject. Students can break down ideas into smaller, more digestible content that are easily comprehended.

It Improves Student Engagement

The graphic organizers allow students to actively arrange and contribute information which helps stimulate the creative and logical parts of the brain.

It Facilitates Cognitive Processes

  • Idea generation
  • Organizing content
  • Critical analysis
  • Reflection
  • Aids retention and recall

In Conclusion

When utilized correctly, graphic organizers can help students retain and recall all the essential pieces of information. The teacher can use graphic organizers to help make learning easier and more engaging by getting students to actively participate before, during and after the class.

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Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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